These Latinx and Indigenous TikTokers Are Teaching Sustainability and Fighting for Change

Follow these TikTok creators for tips on sustainable daily habits.

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Daily sustainability practices don’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, as several Latinx and Indigenous TikTokers recently taught me. These creators are aware of the urgency of environmental preservation, and they use their knowledge as immigrants and of their Indigenous ancestry to teach people of all ages and backgrounds about eco-friendly living. They also share in-depth knowledge about the science behind climate change.

Individual actions won’t solve the climate crisis nor the plastics crisis—we need political and corporate leaders to step up and enact meaningful change there. But our habits can make a small dent.

There’s a lot of pessimism on the news and social media, and I want to provide a hopeful outlook,” said Alex (@ecofreako), a Mexican-Colombian college freshman studying environmental science, who wants to encourage optimism with his account. He declined to give his full name and goes by Alex on the web, as he is trans and not out about his identity yet. He shared about his mission: “I hope to spread awareness about issues involving the climate crisis and inspire people to take action.”

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Introducing family and loved ones to sustainability is important to Pulasu (@pulasu.co), a Colombian immigrant content creator and business owner, who declined to share her full name over concerns about her immigration status. She said, “It starts with talking to your family about what it is, or starting a movement with your younger siblings.” The use of plastic containers, clothing and furniture fabrics made from fabrics that shed microplastics, and the frequent purchase of non-recyclable goods are common practices that a household can work together to change.

Isaias Hernandez (@queerbrownvegan) is a content creator whose favorite topic is sharing how to repurpose home products. His activism started in college, when he began to worry more about the impact of global warming on his future. He reused empty bottles and cans for plants, food storage, and composting, old t-shirts as dish rags, and recommended an inexpensive wooden toothbrush. In one of his videos, he took viewers to a refill store, where shoppers can bring their own empty containers and fill them with goods such as beans, lentils, deodorants, moisturizer, and shampoo, to reduce packaging waste.

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When I asked him about what inspired his interest in sustainability, he credited his parents, who are Mexican immigrants. “They were really big on emphasizing the concept of maximizing, which is upcycling natural materials.” His mother taught him about fermentation. He pickled hot chili peppers, a skill he applied to foods such as cucumbers to extend their shelf life, and used plastic water bottles for the space-efficient gardening of herbs.

Immigrant parents often teach their children frugal habits. According to Hernandez, “There needs to be an acknowledgement that this is repackaged poverty.” He added, “My goal is to provide introductory forms of environmental education to people who come from low-income backgrounds that may not see themselves as modern-day environmentalists.” He divided the work at home into three separate categories: the kitchen, the bathroom, and the living room, so as to not feel overwhelmed.

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Hernandez’s message for younger generations: “It’s not so much about buying green products but rather creatively redesigning your relationship with how you use them.” He traced the zero-waste lifestyle to Latinx indigenous cultures, specifically the Aztecs, who wore organic fiber clothing and ate locally sourced food.

Indigenous people set examples for how to use natural resources sustainability. “I feel like indigenous people all over the world are the real caretakers of the planet. They’ve known Mother Earth for a long time, their ancestors have passed down the knowledge of how to take care of her,” added Pulasu.

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Other recommendations include reusable menstrual cups and sanitary pads, reusable ear swabs, bamboo toilet paper, mattresses made from cotton and wool, and thrifting. Energy-saving mini solar panels can be hung on a window and used to recharge electronic items. Soap and shampoo bars are examples of inexpensive products with less plastic waste.

Sally Garcia’s (@callmeflowerchild) favorite activity is thrifting. Her account features outfits she has repurposed for new wear. She keeps her wardrobe up-to-date without throwing clothes away. Once she read about garment worker rights and fast fashion’s detrimental effects on the environment, she decided thrifting was a better alternative to purchasing new clothing. Like Hernandez, she grew up in a Latinx immigrant household. “My mom would buy us the cheapest clothing she could find for us at chain stores,” she said.

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The fast fashion industry has grown rapidly during the last decade. The average number of times clothing is worn has decreased, while clothing production has increased. Annually, over 90 million tons of clothing go to waste, and microplastics from fabrics pollute waterways. Rayon and viscose fabrics have wood-based fibers that contribute to deforestation.

Garcia comments, “I know that brand-new ethical clothing comes with a price. It is expensive and can be out of people’s budget.” Thrifting is an affordable way to practice sustainable fashion. She modifies clothes she thrifts or has in her closet. “As long as you keep your clothing in circular motion, you can recycle it and keep wearing it. You don’t have to afford a $300 shirt to be sustainable.” Garcia learned about hemming, button sewing, and cloth dyeing from YouTube video tutorials. Her latest interest is natural dyeing methods using onion skins and avocados.

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Another suggestion she offered was organizing a clothing swap with friends, “You can have snacks and foods, and connect with others who also share the common interests,” Garcia said. She hand-washes her clothes to extend their wear and chooses air drying over using a dryer, both fuel-efficient methods that reduce the amount of plastic microfilaments that enter sewage systems. Microplastics from synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and acrylic, are released into the environment when they are washed and worn.

Pulasu’s interest in environmental conservation began after her grandfather was displaced from a reservation. She talks about the Wayuu, a Latinx indigenous people, on her TikTok account. “I’ve seen it in every indigenous culture that I’ve been around in Colombia. Their life is simple, in tune with nature, and they use the resources they have.” She purchased hand-woven handbags from indigenous women and sold them on her website. The profits are then donated back to her community.

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But individual habits cannot solve the environmental crisis. Alex’s content mainly focuses on environmental legislation, and he informs viewers about the need for advocacy. “Companies can be held accountable when groups of individuals get together to demand change for sustainable and ethical practices. This can be done through boycotts and petitions.” He hopes conservationists turn their daily green practices into advocacy for strong legislation.

Yesica Balderrama is a Mexican journalist and writer. Her work has appeared on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, Latino USA, NPR, iPondr, Prism Reports, Guernica, and others. Twitter, portfolio